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McClatchy is a publicly traded company based in Sacramento, Calif., where its flagship paper, the Sacramento Bee, was founded in 1857. The company was owned by the McClatchy family until 1989.
The company is known for the quality of its national and international reporting. Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, which merged with McClatchy’s in 2006, has received praise and awards for its reporting in the runup to the Iraq War. The company also runs five foreign bureaus, sharing expenses with the Christian Science Monitor.
McClatchy bought the larger Knight Ridder chain of newspapers in 2006, selling off 12 of those newspapers shortly after the purchase, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Several months later, McClatchy sold the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which it had owned since 1998. The company sold the Anchorage Daily News to the local journalism website Alaska Dispatch in 2014.
McClatchy’s purchase of Knight Ridder was initially welcomed, as the company had developed a good reputation among corporate newspaper publishers. But the purchase overwhelmed McClatchy with debt, leading the company to write off much of the sale costs, cut thousands of jobs, and face the threat of stock delisting.
The company’s stock price plunged to pennies on the dollar in 2009 but began to recover thereafter, stringing together four straight quarters of profitability through early 2010. McClatchy leads the newspaper industry in online traffic growth and percentage of total revenue derived from its websites, but it also carried $1.9 billion in long-term debt as of 2010. It also reported a loss in the first quarter of 2012. By later that year, its pension plan was reportedly underfunded by $383 million.
McClatchy announced in May 2012 that it would begin testing online paid-content plans in partnership with Press+, hinting at a model built around multiplatform subscription packages. The company planned to pilot paywalls at five papers in the third quarter of 2012 and spread them to the rest of its papers by the end of the year. One of its first major paywalls was unveiled at the Sacramento Bee in September 2012. McClatchy reported 22,000 digital subscribers across its company in April 2013 and $25 million in new revenue through the program in May 2013.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is a nonprofit investigative news organization affiliated with the University of Iowa. The center was launched in spring 2010 by University of Iowa professor Stephen Berry and doctoral student Robert Gutsche Jr. It was initially staffed by students and interns working for free, though its leaders have plans…